Photo by Bryant Altizer
Eric Burdette was diagnosed with Stage IIA Hodgkin’s lymphoma following an X-ray for a rib injury he incurred during a football game. He was crowned Homecoming King during halftime of the James River game Friday, Sept. 23. Also pictured is Homecoming Queen Baliee Cox.

A Radford senior’s diagnosis of Hodgkin’s lymphoma attracts support from all over.


When Radford High School senior Eric Burdette went to Med Express for an X-ray following an injury he incurred during a football game, he thought he might have cracked a few ribs.

His ribs were only bruised, but doctors told him that there was a mass in his chest that was possibly cancerous.

A few days later, his parents Randy and Debbie Burdette, came to the school to tell him that he had Stage IIA Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“My parent’s took me into the conference room to tell me that they’d received the call,” he said. “I’d been preparing for it, because they (doctors) told me that’s what it probably was, but it was still tough.” Burdette said.

Burdette said that after meeting with his parents, he met with Head Football Coach Matthew Saunders to give him the news, and arrange a meeting with all of his teammates.

“That was probably the roughest part, talking to them and getting all of that out,” Burdette said. “I had the whole room talking to 40 kids and everybody was crying. It meant a lot that I had everybody’s support.”

Burdette said that he’s made a conscious decision look at things in a positive light.

“Fear is a choice,” he said. “I am lucky that it was caught so early. There is a 95 percent survival rate for people with the type of cancer I have.”

Burdette said that he has been overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from his fellow students as well as members of the community.

“Everyone has been so generous,” he said. “I’m just so thankful to live in such a great community.”

There have been multiple groups around Radford raising money, as well as bracelets being made to show support for him.

RHS math teacher Cecil Hickam has used a non-profit that he founded, Students Vs. Cancer, to help with things like gas cards and electronics to help Burdette keep up with his school work and occupy his time while receiving chemotherapy treatments in Roanoke. Randy Burdette said that he is grateful for everything Hickam and the organization has done for them.

“They’ve been really supportive. It’s just a really great organization,” he said. “He took Eric out right away and got him some things he needed from BestBuy.”

Burdette started his four to six month chemotherapy treatment two weeks ago, and said so far that he hasn’t felt too bad, and that he has been able to keep up with his schoolwork for the most part.

Principal Jeff Smith said that the community support has been overwhelming, with other schools holding fundraisers for Burdette as well.

“Communities all around us have rallied around Eric,” he said. “We live in a wonderful part of the world.”

Smith also spoke to the toughness Burdette has displayed since being diagnosed.

“To me, it’s been a real inspiration to all of us at Radford who have seen his attitude throughout all of this.”

Burdette said that while his football season is done for the year, he fully expects to be ready for baseball season in the spring, and has plans to play one of the two sports in college.

“I’ll definitely be back for baseball season, no doubt about it.”

A fund for Eric has been started by Radford High School, and those interested in helping can drop off donations at the school or call 731-3649. To find out more about Students Vs Cancer, visit www.studentsvscancer.org. The Christiansburg Rescue Squad is holding a benefit for Eric from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at Grace Life Baptist Church (1640 Peppers Ferry Rd NW, Christiansburg). Attendees can get their car washed, purchase hotdogs and baked goods.

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